Final Report for ENE06-100

Developing labor management expertise among agricultural advisors

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2006: $117,070.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Lisa Holden
Penn State
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Project Information

Summary:

The goal of this professional development project was to build capacity and expertise among Extension educators and other farm advisors to enable them to effectively address labor management topics with their clientele. The project utilized six educational workshops held from 2006 thorugh 2008. The workshops were held in combination with farm tours to showcase specific labor management practices and allow for further discussion among participants. Learning opportunities were further extended by offering six web-based seminars each year during 2007 and 2008. The format for the web-based seminars was 90 minutes in total with a formal presentation designed to be interactive followed by discussion and sharing in order to facilitate the peer to peer learning. Seminar presenters were a combination of workshop speakers and other academic and industry professionals who had expertise in some area of labor management. After the final seminar, all participants were encouraged to complete a short survey to highlight what they learned and more importantly what outcomes results from their participation in the educational events within this project. More than three-quarters of the survey respondents indicated that the program was moderately or very beneficial to them in their work with farm managers. Nearly 86% of the respondents indicated increased levels of confidence in providing either small groups or individual clients information about human resource management. Of the total survey respondents, many had already utilized information from the program and 42 articles about some labor management topic had been distributed. This project combined a variety of educational methods to incorporated variety, repetition, active learning, and continuing support in a coordinated series of learning opportunities. The impact of these learning opportunities was positive with participants being able to demonstrate increased knowledge and confidence with that knowledge combined with the ability to use that knowledge to effectively teach clientele more about labor management – a critical area of need on many types of farms.

Performance Target:

The overall objective of this project was to develop expertise in labor management among Extension educators and other agricultural advisors. Our original performance targets were:

• Two hundred educators will attend educational seminars and farm tours, and 120 will participate in technology-enhanced conference calls that focus on specific labor management topics. ACTUAL: Over the two year period, there were 100 participants at the educational seminars and about 75 who attended the farm tours. Additionly, 85 participated in at least one of the follow-up web based seminars. Lower than expected numbers of participants may be the result of limited availability of time and funds for travel among potential participants. Professional development opportunities, while they may be beneficial, are often areas that are eliminated as work schedules and budget constraints are imposed. The high level of repeat participation on the web-based seminars indicates that this type of format may be more beneficial for long term training, rather than the more traditional on-site workshop.

• Of the 200 educators who participate in the project, 100 educators will report increased confidence in providing small group and individual support with labor management topics, 35 will publish articles on labor management in newsletters or other press, 20 will hold local meetings focused on labor management, and 10 will consult intensively with at least two producers to develop their labor management practices or tools. ACTUAL: Although survey participation was low (21 of 100 total participants), nearly 86% of the respondents indicated increased confidence with the topics and there were 42 articles on labor management topics that were distributed to farm clientele.

We expected that most if not all participants in this professional development practice would be familiar with email and the web. We used a web-based survey to rapidly and conveniently gather information from participants about their activities in achieving the performance targets described above. ACTUAL: The web-based format was very well received by participants. Most were comfortable with the format and some are experimenting with using this type of web-based format for delivery of information to their clientele.

Introduction:

This professional development project was designed to build capacity and expertise among Extension educators and other advisors to enable them to effectively address labor management topics with their clientele. The project incorporated variety, repetition, active learning, and continuing support in a coordinated series of learning opportunities. These opportunities included educational seminars, successful farm tours, and follow-up web-based discussion groups that provided additional content and the opportunity to discuss experiences and to receive support from instructors and peer learners.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Thomas Maloney
  • Richard Stup

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

The project included educational seminars, farm tours to showcase labor management practices and web-based seminars for follow up discussion and peer to peer learning opportunities.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

On November 13, 2006, we held our first seminar for the New England states in Lebanon, NH with 17 people in attendance. Our first farm tour was held the next day at a nearby dairy in Vermont with eight people in attendance. The New England seminar was highly rated with topics ranging from a low of 3.4 to a high of 4.25 on a scale ranging from 1 = not useful to 5 = extremely useful. Evaluations indicated that attendees would: write articles about HR topics, pay more attention to organizational structure, and be more patient and understanding regarding clients’ resistance to change.

The New York seminar took place on April 25th, 2007 with 28 people in attendance. The farm tour at Noblehurst dairy farm included 24 people. The New York seminar was highly rated with topics ranging from a low of 3.95 to a high of 4.86.

The Pennsylvania seminar took place on May 1st, 2007 with 20 people in attendance. The farm tour at Red Knob Dairy Farm on the following day had 14 people. Topics in this seminar ranged from a low of 3.86 to a high of 4.53 in the usefulness evaluation.

By the end of 2007, we held five follow-up web-based discussion groups. These discussions lasted about 90 minutes each and included presentation of new concepts, discussion of human resource management topics, resource sharing, and questions and answers. We had as few as 6 people in attendance on October 16th and as many as 17 on August 6th. These web-based discussions were well received by participants because they could receive substantial support and access to new information for a small investment of time and no travel costs. A web site was developed to support participants in People in Ag. This site is a central location for people to access one-page summaries of HR topics, resource lists, and other tools such as PowerPoint presentations.

Three additional seminars were held in the second year of the project. The first seminar took place on December 7th, 2007 in Vermont. Twelve people attended the seminar and three attended the farm tour that followed. The usefulness evaluation of the topics covered revealed a range of scores from of 3.73 to 4.64. The second seminar took place on April 16th in State College, PA with 12 people in attendance. Topics in this seminar ranged from a low of 3.46 to a high of 4.17 in the usefulness evaluation. Ten people attended the third seminar which took place on April 23rd in Clifton Park, NY. Topics in this seminar ranged from a low of 3.70 to a high of 4.60 in the usefulness evaluation. Five people attended a farm tour at Saratoga Sod which was held on April 24th.

From March 11th to August 27th of 2008, we held six web-based discussion groups. Generally, we had between 6 and 10 people in attendance for each webinar. The topics were as follows:

• Employee Recruitment and Selection
• Management Development: The Neglected Part of Succession Planning
• Move the Team . . . from Me to We
• The Chief Executive Farm Business Role: I have to stop managing by the seat of my pants
• Taking a Proactive Approach to Employee Discipline
• The Practice of Coaching to Build Organizational Capacity

On September 3rd, 2008, all participants in the project were invited to complete a short web-based survey.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

Over the two year course of the project, we conducted 6 seminars, 5 farm tours, 6 follow up conference calls, and 6 webinars. Twenty-one of the program participants completed the web-based survey and revealed the following outcomes:
A total of 76.2% of respondents reported that the People in Ag program was moderately or very beneficial to them in their work with farm managers. The following participants’ comments demonstrate how the program benefited them.

“I was able to apply some of the things that were discussed with my own clients.”

“I obtained new ideas in working with farm managers about labor management and reminded me of some things that I had heard in the past.”

A total of 85.7% of the respondents reported having some amount of increased confidence in providing small groups and individuals with support in human resource management topics (19.0% extremely increased; 38.1% moderately increased; 28.6% minimally increased).

A total of 57.1% of the respondents (12 of the 21 survey participants) distributed articles on labor management topics in newsletters or other publications as a result of their participation in People in Ag. These twelve participants distributed a total of 42 articles. An additional 28.6% of the program participants plan to distribute articles on labor management topics within the next year.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

On November 13, 2006, we held our first seminar for the New England states in Lebanon, NH with 17 people in attendance. Our first farm tour was held the next day at a nearby dairy in Vermont with eight people in attendance. The New England seminar was highly rated with topics ranging from a low of 3.4 to a high of 4.25 on a scale ranging from 1 = not useful to 5 = extremely useful. Evaluations indicated that attendees would: write articles about HR topics, pay more attention to organizational structure, and be more patient and understanding regarding clients’ resistance to change.

The New York seminar took place on April 25th, 2007 with 28 people in attendance. The farm tour at Noblehurst dairy farm included 24 people. The New York seminar was highly rated with topics ranging from a low of 3.95 to a high of 4.86.

The Pennsylvania seminar took place on May 1st, 2007 with 20 people in attendance. The farm tour at Red Knob Dairy Farm on the following day had 14 people. Topics in this seminar ranged from a low of 3.86 to a high of 4.53 in the usefulness evaluation.

By the end of 2007, we held five follow-up web-based discussion groups. These discussions lasted about 90 minutes each and included presentation of new concepts, discussion of human resource management topics, resource sharing, and questions and answers. We had as few as 6 people in attendance on October 16th and as many as 17 on August 6th. These web-based discussions were well received by participants because they could receive substantial support and access to new information for a small investment of time and no travel costs. A web site was developed to support participants in People in Ag. This site is a central location for people to access one-page summaries of HR topics, resource lists, and other tools such as PowerPoint presentations.

Three additional seminars were held in the second year of the project. The first seminar took place on December 7th, 2007 in Vermont. Twelve people attended the seminar and three attended the farm tour that followed. The usefulness evaluation of the topics covered revealed a range of scores from of 3.73 to 4.64. The second seminar took place on April 16th in State College, PA with 12 people in attendance. Topics in this seminar ranged from a low of 3.46 to a high of 4.17 in the usefulness evaluation. Ten people attended the third seminar which took place on April 23rd in Clifton Park, NY. Topics in this seminar ranged from a low of 3.70 to a high of 4.60 in the usefulness evaluation. Five people attended a farm tour at Saratoga Sod which was held on April 24th.

From March 11th to August 27th of 2008, we held six web-based discussion groups. Generally, we had between 6 and 10 people in attendance for each webinar. The topics were as follows:

• Employee Recruitment and Selection
• Management Development: The Neglected Part of Succession Planning
• Move the Team . . . from Me to We
• The Chief Executive Farm Business Role: I have to stop managing by the seat of my pants
• Taking a Proactive Approach to Employee Discipline
• The Practice of Coaching to Build Organizational Capacity

On September 3rd, 2008, all participants in the project were invited to complete a short web-based survey.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.